Nearing The End

    Nearing the end of my time with the NASA team made me want to spend as much time in flight as I possibly could, so lucky for me, we had a few flights ahead of us and good weather forecasted. With only a few high priority flights left on the list, the team was feeling really proud of their accomplishments and less anxious about getting the job done. As we set plans for our second trip to the South Pole, I felt grateful for the long flight ahead which would give me time with the amazing people on board, the scenery of Antarctica and a last chance to ask some questions.

    OIB Crew
    The crew before the last flight. (photo: NASA)
    snow drapes
    Snow draped peaks along the southern peninsula.
    I have had the chance of a lifetime, to make friends with talented and dedicated scientists, engineers, pilots and aircraft professionals, and a small sense of sorrow began to creep in over the last few days. I knew that as soon as I leave, all of this will suddenly, in the blink of an eye, become a memory. So with the exuberance that I've felt all year since I heard of this opportunity with NASA, and with joy in my heart, I happily grabbed onto my final days.
    Andrew Palmer
    Amdrew Palmer, Sander Geophysics, helped me understand the Gravimeter and how it measures the mass of mountains.
    Joe MacGregor
    Dr. Joe MacGregor, NASA GSFC scientists, taught me an enormous amount about ice.
    Gary Hoffmann
    Gary Hoffman, NASA AFRC, helped me understand more about the digital imaging.
    John Sonntag and Nathan Kurtz
    John Sonntag and Nathan Kurtz, NASA GSFC, taught me about ice, weather, navigation, polar exploration, and the ongoing mission.

    Time Zone Mind Warp

    The trip to the South Pole allowed us time to chat about science and grapple with a few concepts like time zones! How many time zones will we go through as we circle the pole at the 88th parallel? Take a look at this diagram and try to figure it out! John Sonntag and I had to draw out some diagrams to have the discussion of this concept to think through the ideas of "now its tomorrow"! He also challenged me to consider how we navigate on a sphere - there are no straight lines! This is all fun and tricky stuff!

    South Pole Screen Shot
    Notice the latitude reading and image of the plane. What fun to cross the South Pole!
    Thee Crew
    Patrick Stoliker of NASA AFCR and I hold my student's banner as we cross the South Pole.
    Deputy Administrator Patrick Stoliker from Armstrong Flight Research Center and I hold Thee CREW banner from my students as we cross the South Pole. When it is back in my classroom in Denver it will be a wonderful reminder of the great people and adventures I go to enjoy here over Antarctica.

    Last Flight

    And so my last flight came and went, and the sun set on my time flying with Operation IceBridge. While I still have several school visits to share about this mission in Santiago over the next few days, I can't help but to feel sad to see this experience end. I also am deeply concerned about the future of NASA's work on climate, polar ice and Earth science, and hope that in the years ahead, we keep our commitment to deep scientific learning so that we can better understand our planet.

    Antarctic Sunset
    As the sun sets over The Drake Passage, I begin to turn my attention toward home.

    South Pole
    Weather Summary
    Cold at the South Pole


    eric hait

    Over you entire tip what do you think was the most influential experience was?

    Ben S

    What data were you responsible for collecting aboard the plane?


    The most influential part...that's tough. I think there are really two things: the people on this project are exceptional. They are cheerful, fun, driven, dedicated and open to questions from the rest of us. They really want this information shared with the public, they want people to be informed and are eager to do WHAT EVER it takes to get the data. They are like a family, and a pretty functional one at that. I feel like I have a bunch of new siblings, which is awesome. The other thing is the beauty of Antarctica. The blue of glaciers, the crinkles, crevasses, bumps, chunks - just breathtaking. Such an experience!


    Hi Ben! I was in charge of my own outreach and teaching, so sometimes that meant being a part of live chats we had with classrooms, and other times learning about the instruments, mission and data being collected so that I could write these journals and reach the public. There is much more beyond the plane for me too - I gave quite a few visits to schools in Chile and will do the same here in the States, and I will design lesson plans and present at conferences as time goes on. So, in a way, I got to learn about all the data and learn what it means.


    On your adventure with NASA were you on a plane everyday at some point? also was it always cold? and was there animals? Thanks!

    Elisabeth Allen

    Hi Maggie! What was your favorite piece of machinery on the plane?

    Maggie Kane

    Hi Gabby, thanks for your questions! I flew most days but not every day because I had several visits with schools, which were a big part of my work there. I We also had a "hard down day" once every 7 days and a few "weather down days" due to poor conditions either over the continent or in Punta Arenas at the airport where we would fly in and out. One of their runways was under construction so we only had one runway to fly in and out, so if there were strong cross winds it was not safe. As for animals, we saw seals lounging on an ice floe and a few penguins running flapping their wings, and on the tip of S. America we saw some flamingos, all pink and leggy! We did not see whales, which would have been really cool - maybe next time!

    Maggie Kane

    Hi Elisabeth, thanks for your question! My favorite instrument on the plane... well, that is a tough one. Can I choose two? One would definitely be the ATM, the airborne topographic mapper. It also essentially flew the plane as its GPS system was super accurate and the waypoints were set through that system. Pretty cool! The other favorite instrument was the gravimeter because it was just so sensitive and told such a great story of the bedrock mass below the plane - wow! But all of the instruments together were really the coolest thing, because each told a piece of the story but together they told one much larger story. Thanks for your question!